The ever-evolving generics in the fast-growing PHL market
MANILA, Philippines — With the fast- paced life an ordinary Filipino is facing now due in part to a booming economy, one must be fit and in excellent health to keep up with the demands of everyday life. And happening alongside the sophistication of the Filipino consumers is the rise in the public’s trust for generic medicines. Today, when a Filipino gets sick, he is more likely to turn to generics rather than the branded drugs as in the olden days.
Vincent L. Guerrero, general manager of RiteMed Philippines, Inc. (RiteMed), said since the enactment of the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008, the pharmaceutical industry landscape drastically changed, reflecting the shift in Filipinos’ preference for generic drugs.
“Before the Cheaper Medicines Law of 2008, generic medicines were regarded as the ‘poor man’s drug.’ There was little trust in them because they were ‘cheap’. This was, unfortunately, the inadvertent result of the earlier law, the Generics Law of 1988, which essentially identified generics as those without brands and which one gives to indigent patients. During the public debate leading to the passage of the Cheaper Medicines Law of 2008, then Health Secretary Duque redefined generics to include branded generics, many of which were familiar to Filipinos. This was a turning point in the generics campaign,” Guerrero pointed out.
“RiteMed was introduced in 2002 as a unibranded generic. The use of the RiteMed brand was a way of assuring doctors and consumers that there is a name they can trust behind these medicines while avoiding expenses associated with building a brand for every single product. The resulting cost savings were then passed on to the patients. This enabled RiteMed to price its products way lower than those of Big Pharma,” he added. Unibranded generic drugs are affordable generic medicines sold with a single corporate brand to assure the public of their safety, quality and efficacy. These drugs are more affordable than the traditional branded medicines as they only have one brand — the corporate brand — being promoted, which cuts all the costs of per-brand marketing that jacks up the market price.
Interestingly, Guerrero pointed out that the rich people were the first customers of RiteMed. He calls them the “wais” consumers. The marginal poor tend “to be the most brand-loyal,” as they want to be “sure” of the efficacy of what they buy because of their limited resources. Hence, ironically, even if they can barely afford a brand, they do not switch to a lower-priced brand unless their doctor tells them to. Compliance with the doctor’s prescription therefore is a problem for them.
But over time – with the entry of more credible generic players and the faster growth in the Philippine economy – more people are moving away from the purchase of more expensive drugs and are now switching to lower-priced generics.
At present, generic medicines are preferred by 60 percent of the Filipino consumers compared to the 40-percent share of multinational brands. Of the total unibranded generics market, 60 percent is already from RiteMed. It has become the dominant unibranded medicine.
In the 2015 survey conducted by AGB Nielsen, RiteMed emerged as the most trusted pharmaceutical company, whether branded or generic, by the Filipino public.
The AGB Nielsen study used the corporate equity index (CEI) and corporate equity method to measure the health, visibility and control of the brands in the market, as well as their potential for the future.
Compared to the same study conducted by AGB Nielsen in 2013, RiteMed improved its CEI to 7.3 points from 5.7 points in 2013, making it a stand-out compared to other corporate brands such as Pfizer with 2.9 points, Pharex with 2.2 points, Pascual with 0.9 points and GlaxoSmithKline with 0.8 points. The global norm for pharmaceutical companies is only 3.0 points.
The study cited the success of RiteMed in market visibility by employing active and effective advertisements and campaigns with Susan Roces and Judy Ann Santos as brand ambassadors.
AGB Nielsen said the persuasion levels of both the Susan Roces and Judy Ann Santos ads were strong enough to encourage purchase, mostly delivering messages of affordability and quality in the Greater Manila region, and particularly registering popularity with the younger moms.
It noted that RiteMed’s ads and campaigns which had evolved overtime — such as “Bawal ang mahal,” “May karapatan kang gumaling,” “Nais naming gumaling kayo,” and now “Huwag mahiyang magtanong – May RiteMed ba nito?” — are effective messages and promises of quality medicines at affordable prices, mainly touching audiences with strong empathy levels, persuasion, imagery and communication.
The study was conducted last March via interviews of males and females nationwide, aged 18 to 65 from Classes A, B, C and D who are decision-makers or key influencers in the purchase of oral medicines or vitamins within the household, whether branded or generic.
“Basically I think this is the result of the change in RiteMed’s business model in 2011. The current model tries to empower patients to ask their doctors and pharmacists for equivalent quality and affordable brands. While the original intention was to enable the poor to have access to the same quality of medicines as the rich people have, RiteMed has succeeded in proving that quality medicines need not be expensive. As a result, even drugstore chains have now copied the model. RiteMed started with a promise – to deliver only medicines that have been quality tested every step of the process, from the time raw materials are selected, manufactured, and ultimately sold to the patients. Unfortunately, medicine quality is not easy to determine. Even doctors and pharmacists are not in a position to do so as the tests require expensive laboratory equipment and highly trained technical personnel, which most companies do not have. Healthcare is a sector based on trust. A patient has to trust his/ her doctor and the doctor has to trust the medicines he/she prescribes. It is trust that drives the market. This is why if you make a promise to the patient and doctor, you better make sure you deliver on the promise. No ifs, no buts,” Guerrero said.
Since the revision of its business model in 2011, RiteMed has been the fastest-growing unibranded medicine in the market, growing by about 20 percent annually on the back of its quality and affordable products. Drugs under the RiteMed brand are also priced 50% or less than their product-branded equivalents.
So what’s next for the market leader? Guerrero said RiteMed is setting its sights on launching more products in various therapeutic categories, including those for cancer treatment.
He also revealed that RiteMed will start its Aseptics line next year to make available infection-control products for hospitals and clinics nationwide.
With the evolution of the generics market in a fast-growing economy giving birth to other players in the unibranded medicines, Guerrero remains confident that the group will sustain its market leadership, as it aims to reach out to more people, encouraging them to be responsible for their own health and to engage doctors and pharmacists as partners in making sure they get well and stay well.
RiteMed also has its own mobile application downloadable for android and iPhones, which helps the consumers in determining the right medicines for each ailment, educating them of the drugs available in the market, as well as informing them of how the prices of RiteMed products compare with their expensive branded counterparts.
For example, for a 75-milligram (mg) clopidogrel which is used as an anti- platelet drug that keeps the blood flowing smoothly in the body, RiteMed’s price is much lower at P19.50 per tablet compared to P67.50 for Plavix. For a 10- mg amlodipine besilate used for treating hypertension, a RiteMed generic will cost you P9.75 per tablet versus its equivalent Norvasc, which is priced at P38.50 per tablet.
For headache and toothache, a 500-mg RiteMed mefenamic acid tablet is much affordable at P4.50 per piece compared to Ponstan’s P33.75 per tablet. For resistance builders, a 500-mg RiteMed ascorbic acid is cheaper at P1.45 per tablet than Potencee’s P5.25 per tablet.
The RiteMed app is yet to be launched but is already available in mobile-app stores.
Guerrero said this mobile app is another offering that aims to empower the public and provide them the
knowledge of every available RiteMed drug in the market, while helping them exercise their right to choose their own medicines, with the advice of their doctors or pharmacists.
RiteMed’s current portfolio of medicines includes drugs for allergy, diabetes, gout, hypertension, bacterial infections, asthma, chicken pox and herpes infection, cough, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, joint pain, and kidney supplements.
RiteMed also offers medicines for leptospirosis, muscle pain, osteoporosis, resistance builder (ascorbic acid), prostate enlargement, mild to moderate pain (for headache, dysmenorrhea, toothache and other body pain), stomach cramps, stomach discomfort such as nausea and vomiting, ulcer or hyper- acidity; vitamins to boost appetite, and vitamin B complex (for tingling and numbness, etc). Guerrero said that the long-term objective of RiteMed is to have all the medicines that Filipinos need, including those for orphan diseases.
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